Bird of the Day: Brambling

Bramblings are gorgeous little finches, and are often called an orange chaffinch, for obvious reasons. They are indeed very similar to chaffinches, although when you see them in detail, they have a lot of differences too! I remember first seeing them at a RSPB or WWT reserve but I can’t recall which one…

I don’t often get the chance to use bright orange paint and I often end up looking at my palette having painted a particular bird and “see” another bird’s plumage in the splodges of leftovers in front of me, hence the shag I painted the day after a capercaillie. I painted a Mandarin duck which has a beautiful swathe of orange around its neck, and although gouache just dries out and can [usually] be rehydrated, it’s always nicer to use it freshly squeezed from the tube.

Sometimes when I paint, I like to go full throttle on the detail, and with others I prefer to pare down to the very basic colour blocks, giving an almost abstracted image. This one is a male in his spring plumage, which is less streaky than the colouring later in the year.

Lars Jonsson has a section in his book about bramblings, where he describes how their coloration matches autumnal beech woodland – their preferred habitat for winter foraging. Beeches keep their leaves on until the new foliage comes through in the spring; I am fortunate to have a perimeter hedge of beech around my house, chased through with honeysuckle.

Do you get bramblings visiting your bird table? They have a green conservation status so aren’t endangered or in decline, but they are winter visitors unlike their resident pink cousins, the chaffinches. I’ve never seen one in my garden but I am ever hopeful as there is a lot of beech and farmland.

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